Wednesday, August 14, 2013


I could write about a number of reasonably well known characters for 1940, but for once I'll focus on a character almost no one knows: Indira the Cobra Queen, the villainess of Tarpe Mills' Golden Age series MANN OF INDIA.

Mills is best known for her successful 1941 comic strip heroine MISS FURY, but she served a comic-book apprenticeship in the extremely varied offerings of the anthology title HEROIC COMICS, which began in 1940, published by Eastern Color Printing.  Some of the entries look like rejected comic strips, but HEROIC also played host to a few moderately well known GA superheroes, like "Music Master" and "Hydroman."  Mills did two 4-page strips, both of which began in issue #1 and terminated in issue #12.  One, "the Purple Zombie," has no relevance here, but "Mann of India" is a different story.

As one might guess, the two figures in the illo above are the titular "Mann"-- an adventure-story writer named "Chickering Mann"-- and his foe Indira, who in this particular story are forced to make common cause against a third enemy.  In the first episode, Mann, during a jaunt in India, gets on Indira's bad side by writing an egregiously unresearched story about the "Queen of the Dacoits," asserting that she was hideously ugly.  Indira gets mad and has Mann abducted by her dacoits.  However, a local potentate named "Kalla Khan" comes after Indira with all guns blazing, attempting to kill her and take control of her dacoit allies.

Though Indira is nominally a villainess, she's pretty gutsy during her counter-campaign against Kalla Khan.  In a late episode, when Mann is about to be devoured by a tiger sicced on him by the evil ruler, Indira beheads the tiger by hurling a sword at it!  Unfortunately, though she falls for Mann in approved TERRY AND THE PIRATES fashion, Mann also picks up a helpless blonde white girl during their travels-- and you know how that goes.

I think Mills rather liked her creation, for although Mann leaves India with his blonde fiancee in tow, Indira is left free to continue her career of crime, which includes trying to kick the English out of India.  The last panel shows her managing to tearfully shut the unappreciative writer out of her heart and re-dedicating herself to murder and conquest.

At a total of 48 pages, this rock-'em, sock-'em Oriental adventure would make a pretty readable "graphic novel" if collected, though there's not much chance of that.   

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